the part of your identity that doesn’t fit into categories
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the part of your identity that doesn’t fit into categories
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What Does Feminist Leadership Look Like?


Lily Hannigan

What makes a good leader?

Strength? Decisiveness? Authority?

It would make sense if these are the first qualities that spring to mind. Just think about when a general election comes around and candidates are measured against whether they have the strength and authority to lead a nation. Our idea of leadership is bound up with centuries of paternalism, military power structures and a big-boss mentality.

On a basic level, these assumptions make it harder for people outside this paradigm to attain leadership and encourage people to adopt particular characteristics to become leaders. On another level, it skews organisations so only the loudest voices get heard, marginalising people from diverse backgrounds and limiting innovation and equitable decision-making.

Feminist leadership challenges this by questioning our assumptions about power, action and organisations.

Since we gathered to create a manifesto to agree on the principles by which we’d lead our design agency, Studio Lutalica has sought to challenge patriarchal ideas of top-down leadership. Now, as we move to becoming a Community Interest Company, led by a collective of Co-Directors, we’re revisiting what it means to practice feminist leadership.

group of people at a gender-based rights protest

Core Principles of Feminist Leadership

At the heart of feminist leadership lies the recognition of the need for a profound departure from conventional leadership models. This approach champions self-awareness, empathy, inclusivity, and a commitment to equity, setting the stage for a leadership style that is not only transformative but also sustainable. By prioritising collective over individual success, feminist leaders pave the way for more collaborative, empathetic, and equitable organisational environments.

Feminist leadership is inherently about challenging the status quo and embracing a leadership ethos that values every individual’s contribution, recognises the strength in diversity, and seeks to dismantle traditional power hierarchies. This commitment to change is not rooted in a predefined set of rules but in the continuous process of reflection, learning, and growth, both on an individual and collective level.

Group of women working together outside at a picnic table

Studio Lutalica's Evolution Through Feminist Leadership

As a business, we have always sought to embody the principles of feminist leadership. In our meetings and decision-making processes, we’ve strived for collective input and consensus, recognising that the best ideas often emerge from collaborative dialogue rather than top-down directives.

For example, every stage of the decision to convert to a CIC and the process of hiring and finalising our choice of Co-Directors was a collaborative process, involving each member of our core team. Similarly, any dilemma we’ve had as a studio, including questions of ethics and strategy, have been brought to the whole team, in an environment where all can speak freely and honestly.

This approach has not only enriched our projects but has also fostered a sense of ownership and commitment across the team.

Now, as we transition to a Community Interest Company, we’re taking a significant step to formalise these practices. By embedding the principles of feminist leadership into our constitution, we’re making a public and enduring commitment to operate in a way that prioritises equity, inclusivity, and collective success. This structural change represents our belief that leadership should be distributed and participatory, drawing on the diverse strengths and insights of all our Co-Directors.

Our Co-Directors’ varied expertise and lived experiences are critical to our mission. Their backgrounds in design, DEI, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and business leadership are invaluable. Yet, it’s their diverse lived experiences that truly enrich our collective leadership. This diversity is not just a matter of representation; it’s about bringing a range of perspectives that can challenge our assumptions, inspire innovative solutions, and ensure that our decisions are grounded in a deep understanding of the complexities of intersectional feminism.

Inspiring Change and Living Our Values

By embracing feminist leadership, Studio Lutalica is not only challenging conventional business practices but also contributing to a broader movement towards more equitable and inclusive organisational cultures. Our journey reflects a belief in the transformative power of leadership that values diversity, equity, and collective empowerment.

As we continue to evolve, we remain committed to exploring and embodying feminist leadership in all its dimensions. It’s a journey that requires ongoing reflection, dialogue, and action. But it’s also a journey that we believe is essential for creating a more just, equitable, and vibrant world. Through our practices, our structure, and our everyday actions, we aim to demonstrate that feminist leadership is not only possible but profoundly effective in driving positive change.